Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Charlotte Newfeld: Activist turns 80 —and stays engaged
by Joseph Erbentraut
2010-11-24

This article shared 5448 times since Wed Nov 24, 2010
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Whenever you ask someone about longtime LGBT ally, activist/artist and proud Lakeview resident Charlotte Newfeld, many phrases tend to pop up again and again: She's tenacious and dedicated, they say. Hardworking and determined, they reiterate. And, above all, she's not afraid to mince words.

That steadfast dedication to human rights and environmental issues, in particular, has been a consistent force for three decades of activism leading up through today for Newfeld, who celebrates her 80th birthday Nov. 26. Although the city where she calls home has come a long way since she first arrived here in the 1950s, she will be the first to tell you there is plenty of work ahead for the LGBT movement both here and across the country.

"I think of every day in my life as a celebration that I'm still doing everything that I wanted to do, or at least enough of those things," Newfeld told Windy City Times. "I'm looking forward to the next day and the next year and all the things that still need to be done. As the expression goes, don't look back because something might be gaining on you."

Newfeld described her first awareness of the gay community as arriving during her graduate school years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which she attended until 1951. Studying art, Newfeld came to know many fellow students and staff who identified as gay and feared open knowledge of their sexuality could end their academic careers. All left-leaning liberal types, she said, lived in fear of being targeted during the days where McCarthyism had only just begun to take root.

"It became obvious to me that there were unbelievable prejudices and many people had to be in the closet in order to survive," she said. "It was really terrifying, particularly for people in the arts and music building, and anybody who was a left liberal. Everybody was really frightened and it hit me so hard why these wonderful people should have these problems."

Upon arriving in Chicago, Newfeld worked to establish her career as an artist, exhibiting in art shows and finding an Old Town studio space with the help of several gay artists. She later wrote columns for "gay rag" GayLife, encouraging gay men and lesbians to register to vote and become involved in politics. In 1982, she took up the cause herself when she ran for city council in the historic 46th Ward, holding her primary victory party at His 'n Hers, a gay bar.

"Once it started, it never stopped," Newfeld said. Although she lost the aldermanic election in a run-off by the tiniest of margins—66 votes—she soon found other avenues for activism, remembering the LGBT community every step along the way and garnering a laundry list of achievements.

As vice chair, she lobbied for the Chicago Commission on Women's first-ever openly lesbian appointee, typesetter Sarah Craig. She further worked with then-mayor Harold Washington to establish the mayor's Committee on Gay and Lesbian Issues and lobbied for the passage of the city's gay-inclusive human rights ordinance. She later joined the effort pressuring Mayor Daley to increased funding for services and education on AIDS, working alongside pioneering activists like Danny Sotomayor and Art Johnston. In 1996, she was inducted as a friend of the community into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.

Longtime friend Lori Cannon, co-founder and program coordinator of Vital Bridges, said Newfeld represents "the best of old-school politics."

"She knows where the bodies are buried and she's not afraid to name names," Cannon said. "This is a woman who knows her community and has never betrayed it. Community organizing is her strong suit and heaven help anyone who dares to get in her way."

Congressman Mike Quigley and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney both acknowledged they have not always agreed with Newfeld on every issue but both respect her dedication to her community. Tunney described Newfeld as "indispensable ... a matriarch of the Lakeview community."

"Charlotte is the marathon runner of community activism," Quigley said. "She is who she is, no filter, no hesitation, no apologies. She shows democracy is not a spectator sport and I think we can learn a lot from [ her ] tenacity and consistency."

"The community would be better off if we had more people like her," Quigley added.

Today, Newfeld occupies much of her time as the project director of the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located just east of Lake Shore Drive at Addison, walking distance from her home of the past 45 years. Known to some as "the Jarvis Earth mother," she oversees a fleet of volunteers who keep up the sanctuary's eight acres. She said she "couldn't be prouder" to see how the project has matured since she first took it on.

She also, expectedly, remains active in the city's political circles and said she is keeping a close eye on the upcoming city elections, including the same aldermanic race for which she once ran. Newfeld supports openly gay aldermanic candidate Don Nowotny in that race. As for the mayoral race, she said she's been impressed by both Carol Moseley-Braun and Miguel del Valle. Rahm Emanuel, Newfeld said, has a background on human rights that is "not very strong for the community."

No matter which candidates succeed in February, Newfeld is hopeful city leadership will protect reasonable low-income housing for North Side residents feeling the pinch of increased rents and continued gentrification in Lakeview and Uptown. She also hoped HIV/AIDS funding will remain a priority and not be "lost in the shuffle"as lawmakers strive to trim the state budget.

Above all, she hopes the LGBT community will remain engaged in the political process, resisting the urge to give in to apathy and disappointment, which she shares, with the Obama administration. She hopes younger activists will stay informed and engaged, as they lead the next generation of the movement she holds dear.

"It's always been the complaint that the younger people just don't get it, but they got involved with Obama and they'll get involved again," Newfeld said.

"You'd better get your act together, because the other side certainly isn't going to help you," Newfield added, regarding gay voters considering staying home from the polls in future elections. "There's no question [ Obama is ] the game in town and we have to stay there with him. There's still a lot we can and must do."


This article shared 5448 times since Wed Nov 24, 2010
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

PASSAGES Writer, attorney, activist Takeia R. Johnson 2021-07-25
- The local organization Affinity Community Services announced the recent passing of Takeia R. Johnson. According to Johnson's LinkedIn profile, she was editor-in-chief and lead writer at Inclusion at Work as well as a Ph.D. student focusing ...


Gay News

SAVOR Talking with new Travelle Chef de Cuisine Qi Ai; Profile of Travelle's breakfast 2021-06-09
- Travelle Chef de Cuisine Qi Ai Travelle at the Langham (330 N Wabash Ave.; https://www.travellechicago.com/) has undergone a major change during the COVID pandemic: New Chef de Cuisine Qi (pronounced "tee") Ai was promoted from sous ...


Gay News

MOVIES Dutch journalist talks about making 'My Friend, the Mayor' 2021-02-17
- In the Amazon Prime Video documentary My Friend, the Mayor: Small-town Democracy in the Age of Trump, Dutch journalist Max Westerman profiles friend Sean Strub, an openly gay activist, activist, long-term AIDS survivor and POZ magazine ...


Gay News

Booksellers launch "Boxed Out" campaign, a look at consumer choices 2020-10-22
--From a press release - (New York, New York) 20% of independent bookstores across the country are in danger of closing. Today, theAmerican Booksellers Association launched the "Boxed Out" campaign to draw attention to the high stakes indie bookstores face this ...


Gay News

Author/academic John D'Emilio on new book, future endeavors 2020-10-01
- Queer Legacies: Stories from Chicago's LGBTQ Archives is a new book by Gerber/Hart Library and Archives President and University of Illinois at Chicago History and Women's and Gender Studies Professor Emeritus John ...


Gay News

Out Illinois State coach dives into new position 2020-09-16
- Logan Pearsall, an accomplished college diver who has since transitioned into master's level diving, was competing at the 2017 FINA World Masters Championships in Budapest, Hungary. He was doing a challenging inward dive from a one-meter ...


Gay News

Joseph Baar Topinka preserves legacy of mother: Pro-gay Republican Judy 2020-09-02
- Riverside resident Joseph Baar Topinka is still impressed with the resolve and stamina with which his late mother, longtime GOP politician Judy Baar Topinka, was able to "slug it out" in the political arena. "She got ...


Gay News

'Making Sweet Tea': Out NU dean talks about new documentary 2020-08-18
- Performer and Northwestern University Dean E. Patrick Johnson discussed his new film and the importance of reclaiming storytelling agency in a virtual Q&A Lambda Legal hosted Aug. 9. Johnson, dean of Northwestern University's School of Communication, ...


Gay News

Asha Ransby-Sporn talks building on the anti-racism movement's legacy 2020-08-05
- With anti-racism protests happening around the United States, in what some media outlets are saying is the largest movement in this country's history, demands to abolish the police have increasingly been a part of the rallying ...


Gay News

Local lesbian couple celebrate 50 years together 2020-08-05
- When Alice Cozad and Linda Young met each other as freshmen at the University of Iowa they knew almost instantly that they would be together as a couple for the rest of their lives. "The electricity ...


Gay News

Teen LGBTQ+ activist aims to inspire with Be You Tiful Initiative 2020-07-31
- Allison Frank is a 16-year-old lesbian activist from Lincolnshire's Stevenson High School who found her passion for activism and began the Be You Tiful Initiative. It all started when Frank was feeling overwhelmed in a makeup ...


Gay News

Cicero student finds his voice 2020-07-29
- When Jorge Martinez-Arevalo was in eighth grade, he was elected president of an LGBTQ+ after-school club at Unity Junior High School, in Cicero. During his eighth-grade year, the club, which is known as NJAW (short for ...


Gay News

Chicago man takes face masks into luxury 2020-07-10
- During COVID-19 David Altman is encouraging people to wear their heart on their face with masks that his brand Vintage Luxe Up is currently making out of vintage luxury designer silk scarves. Altman grew up on ...


Gay News

E. Patrick Johnson, a man of firsts 2020-07-08
- E. Patrick Johnson is a man often associated with the word "first." He was the first in his family to go to college, and the first Black native of Hickory, North Carolina, to receive a Ph.D., ...


Gay News

Gay sign-language interpreter on press conferences, LGBTQs 2020-04-01
- As a child, Michael Spencer Albert never knew how important his hands would be one day as an interpreter for the deaf community. He was born in Edgewater Hospital and grew up in Skokie. In college, ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.